Footloose Review: Dance Your Ass Off

FOOTLOOSE (12A): On General Release Friday 14th October

Chapter 23,000 in The World’s Most Pointless Remakes continues with Footloose – a reworking of the 1984 toe-tapping classic which starred Kevin Bacon. But while scorn and derision is usually poured upon remakes, 2011’s version of Footloose is actually completely passable as it’s almost a scene-by-scene carbon copy.

It stars Kenny Wormold (best name ever) as Ren McCormark, a Bostonian teenager who moves to the small rural southern town of Bomont following the death of his mother.  He gets a real shock when he finds out that loud music and public dancing have been outlawed following the deaths of five students three years earlier, including the son of the local preacher Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid).

Ren falls for Ariel (Julianne Hough) the rebellious daughter of the reverend but has to contend not only with her father’s disapproval but also with her tough-guy boyfriend who doesn’t take too kindly to Ren’s advances.  Meanwhile, Ren befriends Willard Price (Miles Teller) and promises to teach him how to dance while plotting to challenge the town’s ban on public dancing.

Footloose 2011 plays almost exactly like the 1984 original with scenes, lines and even outfits lifted directly from the source.  There are some notable changes.  Some are improvements – the dancing is much more elaborate this time around; it’s depicted as something that all the teens engage in (something which was implied but never directly shown in the original) and the dances themselves are fun and inventive; you’d have to have a heart of stone not to smile.

Miles Teller actually proves to be better than Chris Penn in the role of Willard – the scenes in which he learns to dance and the subsequent payoff are both better constructed and more fun than Penn’s original foot stomping (no gazelle that man).  Footloose 2011 also miraculously manages to make line-dancing look like fun – a stupendous achievement it its own right.

There are some inevitable downsides.  Wormold couldn’t ever hope to match up to Kevin Bacon’s original Ren even though he dances better and Dennis Quaid is good but lacks the passion or the invective that John Lithgow had the first time round  – he seems to hold far less of a personal vendetta which makes his eventual capitulation less satisfying.

Julianne Hough, while stunning (and looking like a young Jennifer Aniston) has some strong chemistry with Wormold but isn’t a patch of Lori Singer’s original character who had a much more intriguing messed-up depth than Hough’s pouty flirtations.

While the dancing is by and large improved and many of the songs remain largely intact (notably Let’s Hear It For The Boy used in the great learning-to-dance montage and the head bopping title track Footloose), there’s a shameless butchering of Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero – a musical crime which shouldn’t go unpunished.

A few exciting scenes are missing – the chicken race with the tractors has been replaced by a less inspiring bus race and Willard’s fight with Ariel’s ex-boyfriend and his thugs seems less plausible given that Miles Teller is about half the size of Chris Penn.

Footloose 2011 is actually much better than expected.  It’s fun, everyone’s great to look at and it’s easy to be absorbed by the upbeat vibe.  Fans of the original move won’t be unduly upset and newcomers will certainly walk out with a smile on their face.

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